by Christian Duque
The news that 2017 Arnold Classic champion Cedric McMillan was out of the 2021 Arnold Classic sent shockwaves throughout the fitness world and sent fans into a frenzy. Everyone wanted to know what was behind this bombshell announcement. Could it have been blowback from Arnold’s “Screw Your Freedom” comments? Was this the result of McMillan’s hand injury, like he said, or was that the cover story he used to escape any awkward situations, like inferences drawn from more edgy news outlets like RXMuscle and Generation Iron?
And by edgy, that is NOT a dig, it just means they’d press him harder for the truth. In fact, if that leads to getting the truth out, then from a news-gathering perspective, it’s actually a good thing. Then, of course, there’s the fact that Nick’s Strength & Power (by many accounts a Redcon mouthpiece) making an impassioned video aimed at swaying public opinion on the matter, almost comes off as damage control to skeptics, like myself.
Believe me, I make no bones about being a cynic. In real life (national politics, science, international news), I’m not big into conspiracy theories, but when it comes to bodybuilding, I’m all about them. I rarely, if ever, eat up what I’m served. I’m also not a Cedric fan. I didn’t care for his video shooting snapping turtles, I don’t think he won a tough Arnold, and I don’t share the fascination Arnold has over him or his physique. I don’t hate the guy, but I’ve never been a huge fan, either. The fact is, he wasn’t in the running, as far as I was concerned, for Top 3 at the 2021 Arnold, but he probably would have made Top 6, solely, because of the fact he’s a former winner. In a recent video, Nick Trigili (who’s absolutely killing it with his new show “Bodybuilding and Bullshit”) pointed out that Cedric and Redcon1 are no more. They either dropped him – or – he dropped them. That’s really what I suspect is behind McMillan not competing. Again, this is just a hunch.
I’m not here to write pro or con on supplement companies – I leave that to the readers. What I am here to say is that successful companies – whatever they may sell – want popular athletes and ambassadors. Cedric is one of the best known bodybuilders on the pro circuit. As a former Arnold champion, he carries a certain degree of credibility and starpower. Additionally, as a member of the U.S. military, you’d think that would make him a keeper with a company that’s seemingly marketed around service personnel. But we don’t have the inside scoop; we just know that it would be odd for such a company with said marketing approach cutting an athlete like that, who essentially, exemplifies everything they’re about.
That being said, Aaron Singerman has gone on record, making national and international headlines for his outspokenness when it comes to Arnold’s “scew your freedom” comment. Singerman was one of the first on the business side of the sport to speak out, but he quickly had to clarify his position, as it’s rumored that many RC1 athletes were none too pleased with the idea that they’d have to boycott the second biggest contest in bodybuilding, over his statements. In fact, the Arnold is the 2nd in prestige and prize money. A lot of athletes need those contest winnings to fund their careers. Sponsorships, alone, just don’t cut it. If Redcon cut Cedric, I’d imagine politics may have played some kind of a factor. Another couple possibilities would be age and/or the injury which may have sidelined him.
Age will always be a factor in physique-based sports. While, yes, we have come a long way from the 80’s and 90’s when “40,” spelled automatic retirement, you don’t have a bunch of companies lining up to sign masters-age athletes. The older you get, the slimmer your prospects become of winning a NY Pro, Arnold, or Olympia. Could you win your first Sandow at 43? Well, Shawn Rhoden did, but how many Rhodens are likely out there? Can you be competitive into your mid 40’s like Toney Freeman was, or place high into your late 40’s like Al Beckles and Dexter Jackson did? Sure, but how many people have that quality of genetics coupled with that level of work ethic? I mean you’re talking about the best of the best, and who knows if Cedric could go that long, at that intensity.
You know, there’s even media that point out that during certain parts of the year, McMillan is all but consumed by his military work. This is not a guy who is limited to bodybuilding; he has a lot more on his plate. That’s great for him, but maybe not so great for his sponsors. I couldn’t tell you if Redcon or his other sponsors were happy with this level of involvement, but something had to give, because he’s no longer with them.
At 43 years of age, the writing may be on the wall and his sponsors may be looking at the younger guns making waves on the pro circuit. Plus, Ced’s career highlight was winning the 2017 Arnold. And while that’s one of heck of an achievement, it was also an incredibly weak lineup, so much so, that when he brought a very similar look to that year’s Mr. Olympia, he was all but annihilated. He snagged the 10th place spot, largely, because he was the Arnold champion for that year. That’s just my take on his placing, but anyone who takes 10th after winning the second biggest title in the sport, is clearly not a dominant force. Sorry, but not sorry.
The other possibility is that Redcon dropped McMillan because of his hand injury. While that’s possible, I’d say it’s unlikely. They knew what they were getting when they signed the guy. He was no spring chicken and every year after 40, most guys start to fall apart. The fact an injury has sidelined him, is by no means a shocker. What could they possibly have been paying him? I mean there’s no way his check was breaking the bank. In fact, I doubt he even made ¼ of what Kai makes, I’d be shocked. Hell, I doubt Cedric was even making a fifth of Greene’s pay, and Cedric pushed Greene to the absolute limit when he won his very last Arnold Classic in 2016.
That was the year that Arnold threw the whole sport under the bus, because he was butthurt McMillan didn’t prevail. That relationship, given the current political climate, probably didn’t help Cedric’s case with his former main sponsor. And I keep mentioning that, because of a great report on Bodybuilding and Bullshit. Nick Trigili made a fantastic observation. There’s zero RC1 mentions on Cedric’s IG, he no longer wears their apparel, and the normal links between an athlete and sponsor seem to be broken. Trigili, also, astutely pointed out the damage-control angle employed by Nick’s Strength & Power.
I suppose the other possibility is that Cedric left Redcon1. There’s always a chance of that; however, what 43 year old bodybuilder is going to jump ship without having another sponsor lined up. He may have one, but Nick wouldn’t have had time to make his video and nor would Kevin Grech of EvolutionOfBodybuilding.net have had enough time to get an article out, if that were the case. If Ced had planned all this right, people would be hearing the news he left Redcon in the same breath as them hearing the news of his new deal. Besides, 43 or not, Pro Athletes don’t usually walk from lucrative contracts.
Of course, we also don’t know how “lucrative” his deal was, either. He might have been getting $3,000 a month, with supplements, and possibly contest bonuses. To a twenty-something that’s ok, but to a career military professional, who’s probably going to get a full retirement after his 20, three grand a month ain’t exactly big money. Maybe he was making more. I’d be shocked if he was making more than $6k per month. While it’s possible, I highly doubt it.
Another remote possibility is that Cedric left after Aaron went on the offensive with Arnold. The thing is, it’s hard to pinpoint when the break (assuming there was one) happened. Therefore, we’re left to look at social media, timelines, and speculate why McMillan isn’t with Redcon1 any longer. What’s your take on the matter? Was he dropped, did he walk, or what?